We left Edinburgh at 3pm and made our way North. Heading up through Wester Ross late in the evening, through countryside that, while I’d never been there before, was very familiar from my childhood on the isle of Skye. Brown rock-studded heathland and moor, heather and spiked grass and pockets of bright green dells. Blocks of plantation pine awaiting harvesting, as above. Mountain ranges with a snowy topping – snow that we hadn’t expected this late in May.
Snow that would be up on the mountain we wanted to climb. An Teallach, the forge.
Never mind, save that worry for another day.
The bothy at Badrallach awaited.
D, A and I played scrabble late into the night, making cup after cup of tea on the little camp stove we had brought with us. We slept up in the loft space on bare boards, with a couple of French walkers down in the main area of the bothy huddled in sleeping bags on the floor.
The morning came bright and cold.
The mountain waiting for us.
After a short drive round the other side of the loch, we parked and walked back a little to the start of the trail.
Let’s begin the ascent, shall we?
Foiled by the ice and snow clinging to the sides of An Teallach, we decided to make the best of things, climb the easier bit of the mountain, and make a snowman. And so we did.
We walked back, thinking ourselves successful. Somewhere in the valley of death, we met a couple of birds, scurrying and skittering along the ground. They moved ahead of us for about five minutes along the trail, the male (pictured below) in pursuit of the female, who lacked the red combs above the eyes and was a little bigger and more speckled. The male made a gentle rolled ‘trrrrr’ call, and fanned his black tail a few times. My thought was he was possibly a ptarmigan or some kind of grouse.
I sent my father, a keen birder, a picture to id, and he consulted a bird book – indeed a ptarmigan, in spring plumage (they are in winter all white bar the black around the eyes and tail, and of course, the lovely red combs).
They aren’t terribly common (with only 10,000 breeding pairs in Scotland), and Scottish Ptarmigan are only found in barren landscapes high up on mountains like this in the North West of the country. This pair really cheered us up with their antics when we were growing very weary.
Finally, after about seven and a half hours, we made it back to level ground. All of us a bit bruised, and in need of dinner, which we had at the Dundonnell Hotel, where we had parked our car. Mussels in whisky sauce, scallops, fish and chips, great satisfaction and happiness. You’ll be tired too, after all these pictures. Go off and have a tea, perhaps, and begin planning your own trip…